Poland’s opposition is on track for a majority in Sunday’s election, an exit poll showed, an upset that would deny the ruling nationalists a third term and steer the country back into the European mainstream.
(Bloomberg) — Poland’s opposition is on track for a majority in Sunday’s election, an exit poll showed, an upset that would deny the ruling nationalists a third term and steer the country back into the European mainstream.
The Civic Platform under former European Council President Donald Tusk won 32% of the vote, according to the Ipsos survey for the country’s main broadcasters. The Third Way alliance had 13%, with the Left party at 8.6%, giving the three groups 248 seats in the 460-strong lower house of parliament.
Turnout was an estimated 73%, a record. A later poll due in the early hours was delayed amid scenes of long lines at polling stations well into the night.
Victory for the opposition would end a tumultuous period in Poland’s relationship with the European Union, which has withheld more than €35 billion ($37 billion) to punish Warsaw for curbing the independence of judges and the media during eight years of Law & Justice rule. The zloty gained after the result was announced.
“This is the end of the bad times, the end of Law & Justice rule,” Tusk told jubilant supporters in Warsaw after exit poll results were announced. “Poland won, democracy won.”
The ruling Law & Justice party took the most votes with 37%, a result that would in theory give it the first shot at forming a coalition. But that will prove fruitless as long as Tusk’s allies have a blocking majority. A potential Law & Justice ally, the far-right Confederation party, took just 6.2% of the vote.
Law & Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski called the result a “victory,” though said a third term for the nationalists was in doubt. “This we don’t know yet,” he told supporters.
When Law & Justice came to power in 2015, Poland was seen as a poster child for Europe’s post-communist transformation, but since then it has stacked the top court with allies and used the state broadcaster to pump out government propaganda.
A win for Tusk would also mark a shift in the tide of populist forces in Europe. Slovakia’s Robert Fico, a former premier and ally of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, is set to return to power this month after winning on a campaign to halt military aid to Ukraine and migration.
Poland has been polarized by an election campaign that featured vicious personal attacks traded between Tusk and Kaczynski. Tusk was accused by the ruling party of being too cozy with Moscow — and of taking orders from Berlin.
In government, Tusk would face a challenge in unifying parties whose differences prevented them from running on a joint platform in the election. He would also contend with a head of state, Andrzej Duda, who is a former Law & Justice member able to veto legislation.
Monetary policy would also likely be impacted, since the central bank governor, Adam Glapinski, has close ties to the ruling party and was accused last month of seeking to tilt the playing field with an outsized interest-rate cut ahead of the vote.
–With assistance from Piotr Skolimowski, Maciej Martewicz and Isobel Finkel.
(Updates with late poll delay in third paragraph.)
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